NEW DELHI (AP) — Airbus is in talks to sell A380 jets to state-run Air India, senior Airbus officials said Tuesday, predicting the superjumbos would play a key role in the expansion of the Indian aviation industry.
So far the European aircraft manufacturer has orders for just five of the A380 jets from one Indian carrier, Kingfisher Airlines, and Boeing officials have expressed skepticism over the need for such big planes in the Indian market.
''We are in discussions with Air India now and we think they would need about 10 to 12 A380 aircraft as soon as we can deliver them,'' said Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy at a news conference.
Leahy said if Air India were to commit in the next few months they could probably take delivery by 2011.
Air India was looking at various options for company needs beyond 2011, but no decisions have been made yet, said Jitender Bhargava, executive director of public relations in Mumbai.
Airbus handed over the first A380 to Singapore Airlines earlier this month after a two-year delay. It is committed to delivering 13 planes in 2008, 25 in 2009, and 45 in 2010.
Industry analysts believe Indian companies will purchase more than 900 new jets by 2025 to meet the demand of its skyrocketing aviation sector as rising incomes put air travel within the reach of millions of new customers.
Airbus expects about 45 of these jets to be superjumbos, said Kiran Rao, an executive vice president at Airbus. The plane is certified to carry 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration, but most carriers are expected to have first class and business class sections for fewer total seats.
Rao said that as air travel spirals in India huge planes that can accommodate more passengers would be needed to help reduce congestion at airports and would be used primarily for hub-to-hub flights.
Officials at archrival Boeing Co. said earlier in this year they would focus on single-aisle planes — such as Boeing's 737 series — for the Indian market and they did not see a demand for superjumbos in India.
Airbus hopes to capture 60-70 percent of India's commercial aviation market, up from the 57 percent it currently holds.
The news conference was attended by new Airbus Chief Executive Thomas Enders, who was visiting India as his first overseas trip, since taking over at the troubled country.
''This is not an accident. India is one of the most important growing markets for us,'' Enders said.